Weeping with those that Weep

I have been asked to share some practical real-life ways that we can be “Jesus with skin” to believers who are experiencing intense suffering. Although I have no pat answers, this question has certainly been one that I have pondered. Just what kind of responses to our trial have been the most encouraging, the most effective in turning my eyes back to my Savior? Everyone is different; what has affected me in my current pain, may not necessarily move others. Every pain is different. Some of the ways people reached out to us, would not fit in other scenarios. I guess that means what I am sharing here is intensely personal and not meant to be a formula for the aid of those who suffer. However, that being said, the principles that we see at work in Jesus as he reached out to those around him who suffered, are no doubt timeless. When we allow His Spirit to live through us, those principles will be worked out in our interaction with others.

When Jesus finally responded to the news that Lazarus, whom He loved, was sick, and returned to Bethany, Lazarus was already dead. Martha rushed out to meet Jesus, exclaiming, “If only you had been here, my brother wouldn’t be dead!” Her ragged disappointment at His absence is overwhelmingly evident. But her relief at his presence is also clear, even if she thought he was too late to do anything. If Jesus had not  chosen to raise Lazarus from the dead, Mary and Martha would have benefited from His presence all the same. He was so moved by their sorrow that he cried, even though He knew their suffering would soon end. Seeing them in such agony, deeply impacted Him.

Two things really stick out to me when I read this story: One is that the sisters knew Jesus could have done something to stop Lazarus’s death, and yet they were still relieved by His arrival even if he was too late. If I knew someone could have stopped my pain and they didn’t I am not sure I would want to see them at all, after the fact. These women found comfort in Jesus’ coming to them. The second thing that sticks out to me is that even though Jesus knew the outcome of the story He still cried! Their pain was His pain. In that crystallized moment between loss and restoration, Jesus cried.

What I learn from Jesus in this passage, is that even if we cannot do anything to stop the pain, being with someone in their loss is a comfort. I also learn that allowing their pain to affect me emotionally is no only OK it is therapeutic. I cannot own another’s pain. And since I have not the powers of Jesus, I cannot end their pain. But I can acknowledge their pain and identify with it.

Often we want to ignore the pain of others, especially if it is tied to some culturally repulsive sin. This leads to an awkward, “elephant in the room” atmosphere, that is anything but cathartic. People who acknowledged the pain I must feel, and expressed their concern, regret, and sorrow, impacted me deeply, while people who attempted to avoid any conversation that might lead to the uncomfortable topic of our situation, only increased my pain, by making me feel isolated.

Compassion is never a wrong response!  People who are suffering the consequences of their own sinful, foolish choices, are in desperate need of compassion. It is easy to think they don’t deserve compassion. They brought suffering on themselves. Jesus had no hint of this attitude when he spoke to the thief on the cross. That man admitted that he was deserving of all the suffering that he was experiencing. He knew his poor choices had landed him in that horrible situation. But Jesus responded with compassion. Often, when we and the ones we love suffer by our own hand, the strength to forgive ourselves is illusive. Joel still struggles to forgive himself, to accept the consequences that God has allowed to affect our entire family and not live the rest of his life angry at himself. One thing that helps him to forgive himself and “let go” of that self-loathing is the compassion of others. It reminds him of God’s compassion and forgiveness, and compels him to live in that forgiveness.

In closing I would like to share a  story of one lady’s compassion toward our family and its continuing impact on me:

Toni, a lady from 0ur church, who had been Jaden’s Sunday school teacher, demonstrated a kind and unassuming form of forgiveness and love. The church had asked that Joel not attend services, or have contact with certain families in the church with whom we had been friends. This had left a cavernous hole in our lives. Although Toni knew we were “outcasts” as far as the church was concerned, she would randomly drop by our house with gifts. She brought the boys backpacks full of school supplies a few weeks before school started. She dropped off some hand-me-down clothes from one of her older children. She came by one day near Christmas with homemade soup, fresh fruit from her citrus trees and presents for the boys! Sometimes she would stay for a short visit; sometimes she was just passing by to drop things off. Her kindness has always been offered out of a heart of love, not in a condescending manner. Her gifts and actions have shouted to us of God’s love.

How do we weep with those who weep? By showing compassion, sharing in their pain, sometimes simply by our presence, by not avoiding painful topics, and by small acts of kindness. Those who have ministered to us in these ways, have turned our eyes to Jesus again and again.

One Response to "Weeping with those that Weep"

  • Hi again… I’m glad you have had someone helping your family when you’ve needed it most. So few either felt only to help those who are unsaved (ignoring the needs w/in Tje cutch body) – or for a tiny-lived spurt when something “happens” with someone… Then they kind if drop the ball and move on to something new or just go back to their routine that doesnt include the hurting person/family who didn’t get “fixed” in a few days. Maybe a casualty of the large church – where it’s easy to be forgotten, overlooked or ignored.

    As for me – I’m afraid of being forgotten, overlooked or ignored… And of needing too much in this time if great need – I’m afraid of the gaping hole that is in my heart being seen by all in a church, and people feeling awkward, uncomfortable, inconvenienced – and fear that the only acts of kindness will be out of guilt (which is the opposite of love).

    I know this has kept me from church – and it’s the fear of the unknown, fear of the worst possible scenario, and an all-or-none outlook which is unhealthy for me too 🙁

    I plan to go tomorrow. I’m scared to death… Of not being who I want to be in Christ. Of being “too much”… Of possible rejection and of inconsistencies on my part.

    I hate that I expect myself to be perfect – that I don’t truly know how to lean on & only seek out a relationship first with God during this time. I know I will compare myself with those around me who at least appear to be doing that… And telling myself that I don’t measure up in the church. That I don’t deserve to be there – or that I shouldn’t be there until I can get my priorities straight.

    I hate the lies I allow myself to believe in those moments – most likely because it gives me “permission” to retreat and go back to the solutude I find “safe”. 🙁

    Sorry to write a book here, tabitha…

    1 Kbh said this (July 30, 2011 at 6:37 pm) Reply

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